Employee engagement was a major focus of this year’s Annual SHRM Conference, but why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement contributes to business growth and development.

According to a 2012 study by Gallup, “Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by

  • 10% on customer ratings,
  • 22% in profitability, and
  • 21% in productivity.

Work units in the top quartile also saw

  • significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations),
  • shrinkage (28%), and
  • absenteeism (37%)”

As well as, “fewer safety incidents (48%)… and quality defects (41%).” Results like this encourage companies large and small to consider what they can do to improve workforce engagement.

You know what comes next: capitalizing on business’ shortcomings in that area. More than 110 of the nearly 700 #SHRM15 exhibitors related their services to employee engagement. That’s more than 1 in 7!

So, what is employee engagement?

According to Forbes, employee engagement is linked to an employee’s emotional commitment to their job. They “care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”

Unfortunately, only 29% of employees are considered “engaged.” The other 71% are apathetic or “actively disengaged.” That 71% is doing just enough to not get fired and doesn’t care about contributing to the betterment of their company.

Increasing employee engagement takes effort, but that effort can improve your business’ outcomes.

What factors drive employee engagement?

Aon Hewitt, a leading human capital and management consulting firm, maintains an Employee Research Database that represents “the views of over 7 million employees across more than 6,000 companies in 68 industries and 155 countries.” The Aon Hewitt Employee Engagement Model outlines 6 engagement drivers:

  • Company Practices: Communication, customer focus, diversity and inclusion, enabling infrastructure, talent and staffing.
  • The Basics: Benefits, job security, safety, work environment, work/life balance.
  • The Work: Collaboration, empowerment/autonomy, work tasks.
  • Performance: Career opportunities, learning and development, performance management, people management, rewards and recognition.
  • Leadership: Senior leadership, BU leadership.
  • Brand: Reputation, brand/EVP, corporate responsibility.

These drivers broadly represent what is important to employees. It might be beyond your resources to craft or refine many different initiatives all at once, but don’t despair! Start with initiatives aimed at improving just a few of the most important areas, and measure how your programs affect engagement. As your business sees improvement in outcomes, you can sell more initiatives to leadership.

Which drivers are most important to employee engagement?

Key factors that contribute to an employee’s commitment to their job and workplace include:

  • Opportunities and concrete plans to accomplish professional learning, development, and growth (growth opportunity);
  • Positive interpersonal connections, both with peers and leaders, to include recognition and inclusion (positive work environment);
  • Ability to and encouragement in creating a work/life balance, to include autonomy and time for self (meaningful work); and
  • Supportive leadership that provides explicit goals and performance feedback, and that both gives and receives respect and trust from employees (hands-on management and trust in leadership).

A few employee engagement ideas:

Encourage leadership to offer continuous feedback rather than conducting formal performance reviews only once a year. It’s not enough to offer general scores and tell them they’re doing a fine job. Employees crave learning opportunities and concrete development plans that improve their value to the company.

Recognition, a simple “thank you,” goes a long way toward making an employee feel valued in their work. Have your department heads create reminders to recognize different employees every week. Give hard-working employees notes of recognition or extra perks to help them feel valued.

Work/life balance is becoming one of the most important considerations employees make when deciding to join or leave a company. Allowing employees the autonomy to strike their own balance between work duties and their personal lives can make their working time feel more meaningful.

Engagement is a continuous process you must maintain, but the benefits of an engaged workforce far outweigh the costs.

For example, we strive to engage employees as both individuals and community members with several I’M InfoMart programs. The voluntary committees serve to recognize employees and promote community service, fitness, personal and professional growth, and work/life balance.

  • 85% of InfoMart employees say our workplace is great.
  • More than 50% of our employees have been with us 5 years or more.
  • InfoMart has won “Best Place to Work” Awards each year since 2012.

We attribute much of our success to our dedicated and hardworking employees. They care about their work and are motivated by our corporate citizenship, the results of which continue to improve company revenue year over year. Improving employee engagement can help better your business, too.

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